Desire to build on Ashes win drives on Strauss

England finished their triumphant Ashes series with a treasured piece of history in the bag – and a taste for more.

It had seemed a formality since the end of day three in the final Test at Sydney that they would wrap up a series win – and so it proved, an innings-and-83-run and consequent 3-1 verdict confirmed just before noon on the last day.

Their success, as in many of those previous against an outplayed Australia this winter, came on the back of a mountain of runs from Alastair Cook and a supreme bowling collective – led by James Anderson.

The 2010-11 leading wicket-taker's seven in the match took him up to 24 for the campaign, and Cook's 189 in England's mammoth 644 all out famously carried him above all but Wally Hammond among his country's highest run-scorers in an Ashes series.

But there were several other significant contributors at the SCG, and elsewhere, as Andrew Strauss's team achieved their long-held ambition – to become the first from England to win the Ashes outright in Australia for 24 years.

Such was their ultimate dominance – three innings victories, against one equally resounding defeat in Perth – that it was tempting to conclude it had all been a little bit more straightforward than expected.

Strauss, however, said: "It hasn't felt easy, there's no doubt about that. There is always a feeling you don't know what is round the corner, what's going to be sprung on you."

So it was even on Friday morning, when England needed only three more wickets but were held up by a stand of 86 between Peter Siddle and Steve Smith (54no) – and unwelcome rain – before Graeme Swann got the former, for a career-best 43, and the second new ball did the rest in the hands of Anderson and Chris Tremlett.

"Thankfully, as the series has gone on, I think we have become more dominant – and certainly those last two Test matches were as well as an England side I've played in has performed," added Strauss. "When you come out here you're slightly concerned, because you know the pressure is going to be at its greatest – and it's when you most need people to stand up and deliver.

"You're always wondering in the back of your mind 'are people going to do that?' – and as you have seen, the guys have all done that.

"It's not often you get as many people in great form as we have done on this tour. But when you do you're a hard force to stop."

Apart from Paul Collingwood – who retired yesterday after 68 Tests – England's batsmen scored heavily throughout.

But the bowlers, who used the conditions expertly to attack and defend as appropriate, deserve at least equal praise – especially on a tour where many predicted Anderson and others would be found wanting.

Strauss said: "For me the most impressive thing has been the number of runs we have scored consistently, which has been a weakness of ours in the past.

"In that sense I am excited about what we can achieve."

For Strauss, this series could not have begun in more inglorious fashion.

A slash to a wide third delivery of the Ashes series, a smart catch by Mike Hussey in the gulley and the England captain was on his way back to the pavilion for a duck.

That could have been England's Harmison moment. The captain's demise in the early throes of the first Test could have had a psychological effect on the 2010-2011 Ashes team to rival that first-ball wide to second slip by Steve Harmison in November 2006.

It could have done, but it didn't. And that is mainly down to the mental toughness of a man in Strauss who has blossomed into one of England's inspired cricket captains.

Michael Vaughan was the astute tactician, Mike Brearley was the consummate psychologist, Mike Gatting was pugnacity personified. Strauss, despite a tendency towards caution and the odd tactical aberration in the field, is a little bit of all three.

A man with the capacity to lift the morale and the performances of those around him. A batsman who leads by example – it was no surprise that his innings immediately following that duck was a century. A man who has grown into the job as England captain once appeared 'the safest option' when taking over from Kevin Pietersen, but who now so evidently is the best option.

When Strauss took over from Pietersen amid the Peter Moores debacle, England were in turmoil. They required a calm head, a steadying influence.

Who could have believed then, that England would go on to win the next two Ashes series home and away?

To progress further – England have risen to third in the International Cricket Council Test rankings – Strauss believes they can continue to follow the example so ruthlessly set against them by the Australian team of the previous decade.

"They were a great side, but there are certainly lessons to be learned from them – and I hope we can go on and emulate what they achieved," admitted Strauss.

It is also important England do not start to believe their own hype, as they arguably did – to their cost – after winning the Ashes at home for the first time in a generation in 2005.

"When it does happen you tend to think 'we can keep doing this forever', and that is the one hint of caution for us," added the captain. "There are going to be tough times ahead. We are not going to win by an innings every time we play and we have to keep striving to get better – because if we don't other teams will pass us.

"We have proved it is possible for English sides to win out here, proved you don't need a mystery spinner or a guy bowling at 95mph – you just need a lot of guys performing consistently.

"Australia will regenerate and come back strong, because that is the way Australian sport is. I think we have overcome a barrier. But if we just turn up next time expecting to win, we'll get the treatment we've had for the last 24 years."

Strauss identified coach Andy Flower as a key fellow architect of England's success.

Flower was conspicuous by his absence as his team milked the applause from the thousands of 'Barmy Army' supporters.

"He's not good at smiling for starters, so that would have been a bit of a hindrance to him," said an admiring Strauss, with a chuckle of his own. "He's a guy that prefers to lurk in the shadows a little bit.

"I don't think he's doing this job for accolades; he's doing it because he desperately wants England to improve. When he finally does finish he can look back and say 'I was part of something pretty special'. He's not a guy for the limelight ... but he's been immense. He's been incredible."